By Alice Compton
As Ms Ugonotti moves on from her former role as Deputy Principal and steps into her new role as Principal of Loreto Normanhurst, I sat down with our new Principal in order to get to know her a bit better and ask the questions that many in the Normo community want the answers to.
Question: How do you feel about becoming the Principal of Loreto Normanhurst?
Ms Ugonotti: That is not an easy question! I am quite humbled by it. I understand, value and am completely humbled by the legacy that has come before me. So for me, I am part of one little moment in time in such a beautiful, long and lasting story and that does humble me. I’m excited! I’m excited because I like working with young people and being surrounded by them, and I am excited by all of the possibility that comes with new beginnings. I feel a strong sense of joy and excitement, and then I most definitely feel humbled by my place in history and the legacy that is carried on. I feel responsible to be that custodian of our story of Mary Ward and her vision for girls’ education. I feel that responsibility, but it’s exciting!
Question: What does sincerity mean to you?
Ms Ugonotti: For me, sincerity is part of that slow unravelling of who we are. It comes with the capacity to not be fearful of reflecting on who I am. This is a hard one for me; I find sincerity to be the hardest of all our values to really grapple with. What I love about it however is how it is so intertwined with justice, verity and freedom in particular. Sincerity means that you need to be free from the things that hold you back from being your true self and that you must allow others to be their true selves because if you do not allow others that freedom and if they’re not free from your judgement or preconceptions then they cannot allow themselves to be their sincere self. I think that there is a real vulnerability in sincerity as it is a virtue that we strive towards and that place where we are honest enough to love our frailties as much as we love our strengths. That is why its interdependence on freedom and justice have really stood out to me in unpacking it this year. For me it is centred on a knowledge of that true, unconditional love that God has for us and therefore us being brave enough to forgive our frailties and shortcomings by acknowledging that even if God has made us imperfect, this is how he has made us and so we must strive towards always being our sincere selves. It is about that self-awareness in order to truly be ourselves so that those relationships that we have in our lives can be loving and freeing. I think that this is the hardest value for us all because you can chip away at working towards being free from the things that hold you back, but that call to ‘be such as you appear and appear such as you are’ is daunting as we have to allow ourselves to put our entire selves out there. This is why freedom from judgement and operating from love and not fear is important so that we can allow others to be their sincere selves. I love the value sincerity and what I am starting to appreciate more is this coming together of all of our Loreto values and how they operate interdependently, which is where a lot of my personal growth has come from.
Question: What have been some of your most memorable moments at Loreto so far?
Ms Ugonotti: The first one that comes to mind is my first day with the students which was when the boarders returned. It was pouring down rain and a beautiful boarder in Year 12 and her mum were having a chat outside the door. I really clearly remember feeling a strong sense of warmth and welcome. I also remember during my first year I was in my office and a Year 10 girl came up to me incredibly excited and showed me a photo of a rainbow heading towards the bush. I knew the rainbow story but I prompted her to tell it to me anyway and in that moment amongst all of her excitement, I knew how special this school is to all of you girls. I knew how unique it was in the Loreto story with that beautiful motif of the rainbow and I will always remember that moment. I remember my first Loreto Day and how I said yes to the girls who somehow got me up on stage. I have lots of beautiful, fond memories from over the years, one of the most recent being this year when the girls returned to school and one girl called out ‘Ms Ugonotti! You’re the Principal!’ and that is when it really hit me. All of the moments that I share with the students and the staff are special to me, and some of those moments from my early days here at Loreto really affirmed for me that I am home and that this is where I belong, as well as that I could find my place to share my gifts with the community and that I would be nurtured and nourished by the Loreto community.
Question: What is one thing that you would like the Loreto community to know about you?
Ms Ugonotti: I think that it is really important for all of the Loreto girls to know that I do place the best interest of the girls at the centre of what we do and that is really important to me. It may not always appear that way to students, but deliberating and discerning what is best for the girls is at the core and is informed by our values. I also used to play a musical instrument as a little girl-- I played the violin.
Question: What was your favourite subject at school and why?
Ms Ugonotti: I loved them all! I was a classic ‘I love every subject’ student. I loved economics so I did 2 and 3-unit economics; I loved Italian so I did 2 and 3-unit Italian. I loved English, Legal Studies and General Studies, which was about current events, geopolitics and human rights. They were probably my favourites but I loved them all. I was one of those students who couldn’t pick her 12 units.
Question: What did you want to be when you were little?
Ms Ugonotti: I think that you always go back to what you wanted when you were little. When I finished school I studied law and I graduated from law. Shortly afterwards when I started to work in that field I realised that it wasn’t me so I did some soul-searching for about 6 months and realised that my passion was education. When I told my parents, my mum said ‘I knew it—you always loved playing schools as a little girl’ so maybe this was always deeply within me.
Question: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Ms Ugonotti: I really love travel. I also love the theatre and I subscribe to Sydney Theatre Company so I go quite regularly. I love reading and being with my family and friends. I quite like food, which is connected to travel, family and friends. I do follow sport (though I don’t really play much) but I don’t mind following sport live or otherwise.
Question: Who would you say is your biggest role model?
Ms Ugonotti: I would probably cluster them all together and say the women in my life, particularly my mum and grandmother. They have had a big influence on me and have role modelled the fact that a woman can be strong while being gentle, nurturing and loving and always steadfast. So always deeply grounded in a love of God, family and of one another. My mum in particular was always about other people, even if she didn’t know them and always cared deeply about those on the margins of society.